New UOPD director strives for a safe and welcoming campus

UOPD patrol vehicle

The University of Oregon Police Department has named John D. “J.J.” Johnson III its new director of community engagement.  

In his expanded role, Johnson will lead UOPD’s efforts to engage students and build a more inclusive and welcoming campus community. Johnson has worked part-time for the UOPD since 2021 as interim director and lead of the department’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiative.

John 'J.J.' Johnson“I understand that in today’s climate, there are a wide variety of perspectives about how campus policing should be conducted and about law enforcement in general,” Johnson said. “I am committed to making sure that student voices are being heard and are part of ongoing discussions for how to make the UO campus safe and welcoming for all UO community members.”

Johnson is a former university police lieutenant and counselor who has experience in family counseling and working with victims of crime. Johnson originally joined UOPD part time to assess and implement recommendations from a diversity, equity and inclusion audit. While in that position, he continued serving at Beverly Hills High School, his alma mater, where he worked with all student populations to develop safe spaces to achieve their academic and social goals.

UOPD Chief Jason Wade said Johnson’s experience in campus law enforcement, in the classroom and as a counselor provides a special skill set that strengthens the UOPD as the department expands its outreach efforts.

“Director Johnson brings a comprehensive and empathetic approach towards protecting the physical and emotional safety concerns for the community,” Wade said. “His unique knowledge and experiences will help UOPD support our community­­ partnerships and provide a focused direction to our engagement efforts.”

Director responsibilities recently expanded to include oversight of a new team of community service officers. Unlike sworn officers, service officers are unarmed. They go through a comprehensive training program, which includes learning about campus security protocols, UOPD and UO policy, and mandatory implicit bias and de-escalation training with the state. 

UO President Michael Schill announced a move to community service officers in November 2020. Since then, 10 service officers have joined UOPD. Wade hopes to add another three by fall term.

In addition to community services officers, UOPD serves campus with sworn officers, security officers and command staff.The evolution of UOPD merges Johnson’s background in law enforcement and passion for working with students.

“I want to meet people where they are,” Johnson said. “There are students, staff and faculty who I believe should be encouraged to participate in discussions about campus law enforcement at UO. I want to be part of the facilitation and engagement of those conversations both academically and interpersonally.”

Rounding out the new UOPD team will be a director of physical security, who will oversee security of buildings. UOPD will launch a search for that position this summer with the goal of having someone in the position for fall term.

By Molly Blancett, University Communications